Thursday, January 26, 2017

Chesterton and Muggeridge on the Weakness and Temptation of Journalism

It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that that moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding is really more sensational; and it is also some thousand times more common. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insist upon the permanent miracles. Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, “Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe,” or “Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet.” They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complex picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; they can only represent what is unusual. However democratic they may be, they are only concerned with the minority.

- G.K. Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross

Malcolm Muggeridge, a BBC commentator and author for over thirty years, argued in his book Christ and the Media, that at the advent of television if Jesus was alive today, there may have been a fourth temptation that went something like this:

One day a Roman tycoon named Lucius Gradus hears Jesus preaching in Galilee and is very impressed. “This Jesus has star potential. He could be a superstar!” He tells his representatives to “puff Jesus” then bring him to Rome. He tells them to bring the John the Baptist guy with him, along with some talk show teachers from the Athens philosophy school.

Lucius Gradus: "I’ll put him on the map, launch him off to a tremendous career as a worldwide evangelist. I’ll spread his teaching throughout the civilized world and beyond. He’d be crazy to turn it down! Instead of a ragtag lot following him from Galilee, everyone will know him.

There will be no commercials, just one highly respected public relations sponsor – Lucifer Inc. No more than: 'This program comes to you courtesy of Lucifer Inc.' at the beginning and end with credits.”

Jesus, of course, says “No,” and is dismissed by all as irrelevant and “crazy.” His choice leads Him to a crucifixion and a slow unfolding of his message. It would take three hundred years to become known in the Roman Empire.